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Para cycling

Tandem para cycliste en course sur piste

Para cycling is divided into two formats – road (road race, time trail and relay) and track (time trial, individual pursuit, tandem and team sprint). Road cycling made its debut in the Paralympic Games in 1984 in New York and Stoke Mandeville and track cycling came in 12 years later at the AtlantaGames. 

Whether on the road or on track, Para cycling stands out for the numerous types of cycles used: standard bicycles, handcycles, tricycles and tandems – there’s a cycle to suit each different type of disability. 

Brief overview of the rules 

Competition distances account for the abilities of the athletes’ different classification according to their disability. Road races are held across distances between 78 and 125km for tandem riders, 37 and 80km for handcycles, 48 and 100km for bicycles and 26 and 40km for tricycles. In the relay race, mixed teams are made up of three athletes who must each complete two or three laps, depending on the length of the course. 

Time trials are held on a course between 10 and 40km according to athlete category. 

Clark Rachfal and David Swanson of the United States lead the peloton during the Men's Individual B Cycling Road Race on day 10 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Brands Hatch on September 8, 2012 in Longfield, England
© Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In track cycling, athletes compete in time trials individually or in teams at a velodrome with a 250m track, in distances of 500m or 1km from a standing start. Meanwhile, in the individual pursuit, riders cycle distances of 3km or 4km.  

Athletes use different bicycles according to their impairment classification. In solo events, riders use standard racing bicycles with minor modifications where needed for safety depending on their disability, with adjustments made to the brake location, gear changes or chainset, for example. The sport is practised by athletes that have undergone amputations or have limited movement of upper or lower limbs.  

A handcycle has three wheels and riders use the strength of their upper limbs to operate the chainset. It is used by cyclists with spinal cord injuries or one or both lower limbs amputated.  

Tricycles are used by riders with locomotor dysfunction and balance issues (such as cerebral palsy or hemiplegia).  

Tandems are used by athletes who are blind or vision impaired who compete with a sighted pilot.  

Eligible impairments 

Vision impairments, amputated upper or lower limbs and equivalent, physical disabilities limiting movement of the upper or lower limbs (such as cerebral palsy or hemiplegia). 

International federation

Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) :

© Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images